I am Lutheran and Minnesotan. A collective sigh: Ahhhhh! Thus, some may assume I am the epitome of a nice, considerate, poised, ever-smiley human. Except there’s just one clink in the armor: My ancestors did not immigrate to the new country from Scandinavia. If you can keep a secret “conditional” if you will accept my disgracefully stubborn, block-headed German heritage. So I get guilt, got lots of it growing up in the church, and I get nice. After all, one is never completely immune from the embedded culture of their land and I’ll give it to Minnesotans, they sure can be nice (italics necessary for the times when not-so-nice behavior was observed by my young eyes). What I don’t get about the “shame on us” dwelling at the foot of the cross while attempting to make up for our shortcomings with incessant niceties is the lack of space for anger. The moments when we cry out with Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Because even if I don’t truly believe God ever forsakes me, it doesn’t mean I haven’t ever felt frustrated by God’s perceived absence. And I figure if Jesus was capable of uttering such despairing rage, the lowly ones like me, Minnesota Lutherans created in God’s image, are surely allowed fire-in-the-belly, fist-shaking outbursts.
Here’s an example. Knowing I am complicit with environmental degradation makes me angry. Knowing that low-income neighborhoods breathe in more pollution because city governments allow toxic waste sites to set up shop near Section 8 housing causes my blood pressure to rise. To top it off, knowing that my people, European Americans, Caucasians, whites, usurped land and subsequently power and proceeded to participate in calculated genocide in order to build today’s empire: fury doesn’t quite encapsulate the ugly rawness of what burns within me. “Oh, no, everything’s fine” ain’t gonna cut it no more. Nor is expressing guilt, even if it is genuine; it’s time to move beyond that too. If I’m not angry, I have to ask myself whether I am paying attention? Put this way, my anger in reaction to the destruction of both entire cultures and ecosystems is valid, powerfully reminding me that I’m human while also provoking a potentially life-giving, hope-filled response. I can’t undo what’s been done but I can do my best to educate myself about and take action against injustices in my communities.
When my mom died, I was in shock, numb to what was happening around me. There was a confusing mixture of feelings, not at all like Kubler-Ross neatly, ironed out stages. A few years later, an energy began to emerge and quickly pervade my being. And then it happened. I released years worth of suppressed emotions, what I previously thought was the bad stuff I needed to disguise. The feeling was tangible. Numbness receded and I could feel again. In those moments, I awakened to life. I was able to honestly say I am fully alive, fully human, and that means some days I will be angry and sweet and generous and difficult to be around. If I do not honor that, I deny my humanness.
I am grateful for the fire energy anger that came back to me. Although I angrily desire my mom’s physical presence on a daily basis, her life (and with it, her death), again and again, has ignited a burning desire to live. My hope is that we, people of faith, can begin to celebrate our fire energy, trusting that it will enliven us to do the work that is necessary for the journey ahead. The journey that sometimes calls us to get angry, knowing that, maybe then, we’ll start living like it matters.
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
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